The effects of hypercapnia and hypocapnia on respiratory resistance were studied in 15 healthy subjects and 30 asthmatic subjects. Respiratory resistance (impedance) was measured with the pseudo-random noise forced oscillation technique while the subjects rebreathed from a wet spirometer in a closed respiratory circuit in which end tidal carbon dioxide tension (PCO2) could be controlled. Hypercapnia was induced by partially short circuiting the carbon dioxide absorber, and hypocapnia by voluntary hyperventilation. The circulating air was saturated with water vapour and kept at body temperature and ambient pressure. A rise of end tidal PCO2 of 1 kPa caused a significant fall in respiratory resistance in both normal and asthmatic subjects (15% and 9% respectively). A fall of PCO2 of 1 kPa did not cause any significant change in impedance in the control group. In the asthmatic patients resistance increased by 13%, reactance fell by 45%, and the frequency dependence of resistance rose 240%. These findings confirm that hypocapnia may contribute to airway obstruction in asthmatic patients, even when water and heat loss are prevented.
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